Volunteers to monitor live CCTV cameras

CCTV cameras in Blackpool town centre are to be monitored live once more
CCTV cameras in Blackpool town centre are to be monitored live once more
  • Due to spending cuts there has been no real-time observation of the CCTV cameras in Blackpool
  • Volunteers will now be used to man the service following numerous calls to restore some form of monitoring
  • The manned CCTV will not be 24-hour and is expected to be up and running by September

CCTV cameras in Blackpool are set to be monitored again two years after spending cuts forced the service to be axed.

While cameras have continued to record, there has been no real-time observation of the footage.

The financial reality was that we had very little choice. It was expensive to run and we were, and still are, facing some of the most severe cuts in the country.

Coun Gillian Campbell

Now town hall bosses have joined forces with the police and businesses to reinstate the service in the town centre using volunteers.

It is expected monitoring will be up and running by September.

The manned CCTV will not be 24-hour, but will cover peak times including weekends and busy evenings.

No figure has been put on the cost but infrastructure is already in place and it is just the cost of one full-time post that needs to be met.

Since the service stopped there have been numerous calls to restore some form of monitoring, both from town centre businesses and from victims of crime.

Blackpool Council’s Night Time Economy Working Group, which includes businesses, public services and other organisations, is also supporting the reintroduction.

Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “Ending the CCTV monitoring service was never something that we were keen to do.

“We know it was a service that helped people to feel safe.

“However, the financial reality was that we had very little choice. It was expensive to run and we were, and still are, facing some of the most severe cuts in the country.

“We have always, however, recognised the value the service provided and the Night Time Economy Working Group share that view so, for some time now, we’ve been looking at ways of monitoring the cameras at peak times.

“We’ve worked with Blackpool BID (business improvement district) to devise a new volunteer-based scheme which is supported by professional officers and will come at a vastly reduced cost.

“That, for me, is a good solution and we hope it will be up and running very soon.”

Eileen Ormand, the Town Centre and Blackpool BID Manager, said: “Consultation with Blackpool BID members has shown that restoring town centre CCTV is a priority for both daytime and night time members.

“As a result we’ve been working with Blackpool Council over a period of time and we’ve now found a solution that is workable for all parties.

“We’re delighted and we will be pushing to get this initiative up and running as soon as possible.

“It is vital that people feel safe when they come to Blackpool town centre.”

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservatives on Blackpool Council, has persistently called for manned CCTV to be brought back.

He said today: “It will make people feel safer in the town centre, but they should never have stopped having manned CCTV in the first place.

“It is an effective tool in preventing crime, not just as a deterrent but in order to stop trouble from flaring up.”

Dave Daley, landlord of The Castle pub on Central Drive, said: “This is great news because in a tourist town holiday-makers need to feel safe.

“It will also make the police’s job easier, especially at a time when police numbers are being reduced.”

Blackpool Police have agreed to use their volunteer co-ordinating team to recruit, train and vet staff.

The cost of staff time and training is being shared between Blackpool BID and Blackpool Council with some additional help from a recent central Government crime reduction grant.

Blackpool Council stopped monitoring its CCTV cameras in April 2013 as part of a package of savings which saw £187,600 slashed from the CCTV budget as part of total council cuts of £14.1m.

The town’s CCTV camera system, launched in 2001, had cost in the region of £1.5m to set up, and in 2009 it was costing £600,000 a year to operate.

Cameras were monitored round-the-clock seven days a week until the first cuts were made in 2011, and the number of CCTV operators was reduced from 11 to three as part of a £908,000 package of cuts covering parking and CCTV.

Monitoring was reduced to Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.